The (Anti) Valentine's Day Guide for food lovers

Posted Feb 12th, 2012

The (Anti) Valentine's Day Guide for food lovers

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Do something meaningful on Valentine's Day. Make soup. 

The emails have been landing in my inbox for weeks.

My favourite restaurants are trying to woo me and that special someone to one of their tables for Valentine's Day dinner.

Normally, I'd be really excited about a multi-course meal prepared by some of Niagara's finest. But this is one occasion that leaves me underwhelmed by the offerings. It's nothing the restaurants are doing. It's just my general feeling about the day dedicated to paired off people.

I've never been a fan and through most of my 20s, I celebrated Anti-Valentine's Day with friends, on account mostly of my perpetual singleton state, and went to the movies to watch a cheesy slasher flick instead of Hollywood's latest on-screen power couple making movie magic.

Even after I got married, I still didn't buy in to the flowers and fancy meals. It really did feel rather forced and cliched. My husband has the same pragmatic view of Feb. 14, though every year, he checks in to see if things have changed with me. Was I expecting flowers this year or are we still good with opting out of Hallmark hoopla?

I'm still OK with it.

But that hasn't stopped me from coming up with ways to mark the day — at least for folks that feel equally as blasé about mixing pink with red and wondering why professing your feelings on Tuesday means any more than it would any other day.

They're ways, I hope, of turning love's day (somehow, typing that triggered my gag reflex, just a little bit) into something truly meaningful.

Make soup. OK, this is perhaps the most romantic suggestion I will make and only because, despite my general disdain for Valentine's Day, I am still a bit of a softy. Not only is soup a solid meal on a winter's day, the inspiration really comes from a Hawksley Workman song — on a Christmas album, to boot — called Almost a Full Moon (Let's Make Some Soup).

It's a song for food aficionados and filled with earnest sentiment. Really, it makes cooking soup sound like the most meaningful activity two people could do together. With Valentine's Day being a farmers market day in St. Catharines, you can get local fixings to fill your bowls.

Let's make some soup 'cause the weather is turning cold
Let's stir it together till we are both grey and old
Let's stir it together till it tells us stories of its own
Let's make some soup cause the weather is turning cold
Pumpkin and parsnip, carrots and turkey bones
Bay leaf and pepper, potato and garlic cloves
You stir a moment while I put more wood in the stove
Lets make some soup 'cause the weather is turning cold

See what I mean? So make soup, I say, if you want to do something different on Cupid's day.

Go to dinner on Feb. 15. And go to this dinner in particular: Start Me Up Niagara's monthly pasta dinner that doubles as fundraiser for the organization that provides support to people who are homeless or facing other economic or social challenges in their lives.  It's the antithesis of your usual Valentine's Day dinner suspects because it's cheap. It's $10 for pasta, meatballs, salad, dessert and a drink and the money goes to a good cause — Start Me Up's work.

It's the day after the big day but still close enough to have a sense of occasion. And it's pasta. Depending on what noodle lands on your plate, isn't that a romantic dinner date no-no? Long, slurpy noodles are messy and awkward. Unless you pull a Lady and the Tramp. No, I'm not suggesting you do. Dinner is from 5 to 7 p.m. at 17 Gale Cr. in St. Catharines. And you can get it to go, if you prefer.

The Garden of Eating - Niagara picks fruit growing people's yards that would otherwise go to waste and donates it to local social organizations.

Donate. Perhaps instead of spending huge wads of cash on over-priced flowers or being herded in and out of a restaurant at set times to accommodate other hungry couples wanting to profess their love, you could give that money to a good cause.

The Garden of Eating — Niagara residential fruit picking program is just one such organization that could use the help. Money raised will go to covering insurance costs for the upcoming harvest season. If that doesn't appeal to you, there are plenty of other organizations out there who could use your help and a genuine show of your caring and affection.

Watch a movie. But not a rom-com. Not even a slasher flick. Head to the Unitarian Congregation of Niagara in St. Catharines on Friday night at 7 p.m. to take in the documentary The Fight for True Farming, in which those growing our food are asked for their solutions to the issues posed by factory farming.

Romantic? Nope. But I guarantee it'll inspire deep and meaningful conversation with that special someone far more than the usual dinner conversation that you might otherwise have over that three-course, prix-fixe meal you'll have 90 minutes to get through on Feb. 14 before the next seating shows up and pushes you out the door. The congregation is located on Queenston Street next to the Delta Bingo and across from Spicy Thai. The movie is free but donations for snacks are welcome.

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